Give us feedback


Internet Explorer is not supported.

It is recommended that you view this website on the latest version of Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari.

Protecting Population Health in a Climate Emergency

Back to Our Stories

Chief Medical Health Officer’s landmark report calls for coordinated and immediate action.

Dr. Patricia Daly, Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO) for Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), raises concerns about the pressing health threats posed by climate change in a new report. Released in February 2024, “Protecting Population Health in a Climate Emergency” presents a thorough examination of the impacts of climate change on population health in the VCH health region.

Dr. Daly underscores that no B.C. community is immune to the effects of climate change, however, “the risks vary for each community, influenced by geography and demographics,” she notes.

Some populations are more likely to experience health impacts due to factors beyond their control, such as limited resources to respond or protect themselves from climate-related changes. For example, in the summers, people living in apartment buildings without air conditioning were more likely to experience indoor temperatures exceeding 26°C, which can be dangerous for those at higher risk, like older adults. The report also highlights the vulnerability of drinking water systems in smaller communities to disruptions caused by droughts and floods. In 2022, the Sunshine Coast experienced a severe drought, leading to water restrictions affecting over 22,000 residents.

In recent years, the focus at VCH concerning climate change has shifted from raising awareness to also include “upstream” work that builds resilience in communities such as reducing emissions from transportation and buildings and increasing green spaces to reduce the urban heat island effect. Complementary work is also underway to address climate hazards and protect populations and individuals at highest risk. The report urges decision-makers at all levels to implement the evidence-based recommendations outlined in the report. Local, regional and provincial governments, community organizations, and First Nations all have a role in changes such as creating cooler outdoor urban environments and promoting youth-led efforts to address climate change and climate anxiety.

Staff across Dr. Daly’s office are working to advance the recommendations by “strengthening our monitoring of health outcomes, contributing to policy processes led by local and provincial governments, supporting heat and smoke response planning in communities, and conducting research to better understand who is most affected in our region,” says Craig Brown, Senior Scientist of Climate Change and Health for VCH.

Tackling the challenges of climate change is only possible through coordinated and collaborative efforts, VCH climate experts note.

No single agency can address the challenges of climate change – everyone has a role,” emphasizes Craig. “We hope that the report will spark partnerships and collective action.”

Safeguarding planetary health is a strategic priority for VCH and it is a collective responsibility. As Vancouver Coastal Health continues to advocate for climate resilience and public health, the report serves as a clarion call for all sectors to embrace climate action. By embracing the recommendations outlined in the report and prioritizing collective action, communities in the VCH region can confront the challenges ahead with optimism and resolve.